Passing through Louisiana on your next American road trip? If so, you’re not going to want to miss this list of the best things to do in Baton Rouge, LA! Perched along the Mississippi River, this sweet Southern city is ready to charm your socks off.
A flamboyant and friendly destination, Baton Rouge is known for its Southern hospitality and a long list of superb tourist attractions. Those with a penchant for history will adore landmarks like the Magnolia Mound Plantation. Travelers dreaming of a bayou experience will want to add the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center to their bucket list. Looking for an exciting evening out on the town? Plan an escapade to the Riverfront Plaza & City Dock.
Looking to build a wanderlust-worthy itinerary? Fill your days with fun activities from this complete list of the best places to visit in Baton Rouge, Louisiana!
Best places to visit in Baton Rouge, LA
Baton Rouge Zoo
Animal lovers should not pass up the opportunity to visit the Baton Rouge Zoo. After opening to the public in 1870, this zoo quickly became a local champion for conservation efforts and even starred in a TV series. (Recognize the name Buckskin Bill?)
From unique residents like tapirs and bongos to classic zoo superstars like tigers and rhinos, you’ll get to experience animals from every corner of the world at the Baton Rouge Zoo.
For an added dose of excitement, sign up for Safari Night. This sleepover will transport you to the African Savannah, where the roars and chirps will send you off to dreamland.
Traveling with someone who experiences sensory overstimulation? The zoo was the first location in Baton Rouge to become certified as “sensory inclusive.” This attraction has designated quiet areas and sensory kits, including headphones, weighted lap pads, and fidget toys to make your experience more enjoyable.
USS KIDD Veterans Museum
Whether you’re curious about U.S. military history or you’re just looking for a great museum to fill your day, heading to the USS KIDD Veterans Museum on your Baton Rouge trip is a great choice. Here, you’ll explore a famous naval ship, a replica of WWI trenches, and witness war artifacts first-hand.
For the ultimate USS KIDD Veterans Museum experience, be sure to look into their overnight camping program. At the beginning of the evening, you’ll board the USS KIDD and sleep in a berthing compartment like one of America’s past war heroes. You’ll be free to roam the ship at your own pace, participate in activities to earn merit badges, and play in an epic scavenger hunt.
Louisiana’s Old State Capitol
You’ve never seen a legislative building more intricately designed than Louisiana’s Old State Capitol. Full of extravagant designs and mosaic stained glass towers, this museum filled with artifacts and storytelling exhibits is a true work of art. Learning about history and government systems has never been so beautiful!
Want to enhance your experience in the spirit of the spooky season? Louisiana’s Old State Capitol, also known as “The Castle,” has been rumored to be haunted for decades.
Now, you can buy a ticket to a 4D theatre presentation, where Sarah Morgan, a woman from the Civil War era, appears and interacts with the audience to tell tall tales about Baton Rouge’s history.
Louisiana Art & Science Museum
Looking for something fun and educational to do with the whole family? Check out the Louisiana Art & Science Museum. This interdisciplinary attraction is a hub for play-based learning and features both a state-of-the-art planetarium and a movie theater.
There’s so much to see & do at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum that you might feel like you need to prioritize which exhibits you want to hit up. Highlights you can’t afford to miss include a real-life mummy and sarcophagus in the Ancient Egypt exhibit and a giant model of the solar system in the planet tower.
Of course, science isn’t the only thing you can explore at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum. There are also several art galleries featuring over 4,000 works and ancient artifacts.
When you start feeling the need for that mid-day java boost, drive on over to Coffee Call. This coffee shop, located on College Drive, is well known for its extensive menu of espresso-based beverages and warm, inviting ambiance.
If you need a sweet treat to accompany your coffee, the Coffee Call Beignet Fingers are a fan favorite. They’re so scrumptious that locals from all over Baton Rouge make the jaunt across the city for them. Covered in powdered sugar and ready to dip in various sauces, these handheld pastries are sure to impress!
Magnolia Mound Plantation
For a crash course on Colonial-era Lousianna, check out the Magnolia Mound Plantation. These preserved grounds are a true snapshot in time. Don’t miss the chance to learn about the history of the estate’s owners and talk a walk through the quiet farmland.
Throughout the estate, you’ll find a series of historical buildings to explore, including a house museum, kitchen, creole barn, and slave quarters. Participate in a guided tour to can hear the stories of those who once lived at the Magnolia Mound Plantation and the implications of slavery in a local context.
Riverfront Plaza & City Dock
During your trip to Baton Rouge, don’t forget to take a stroll at the iconic Riverfront Plaza & City Dock. This waterfront park, located at the edge of the Mississippi River, is one of the top tourist attractions in Baton Rouge for tourists and locals alike. From trails and bout tours to murals and fountains, this park has it all!
If you’re in the mood for a more exciting evening, the Riverfront Plaza & City Dock offers some pretty great nightlife options, too. Check out the Levee stage for concerts, performances, and even the occasional festival.
The amphitheater is fully outdoors, so you can enjoy a summer evening under the stars. It’s also close to many of the city’s top-rated restaurants and bars.
Lousiana State University Rural Life Museum
Love learning about the local heritage when visiting a new city? Go see the Lousiana State University Rural Life Museum. Located off-campus, this 400-acre estate provides a living-museum exploration of early life in Louisiana. There’s also a lovely botanical garden on-site if you’d like to make a day of this experience.
What can you expect to see at the Lousiana State University Rural Life Museum? Amidst the collection of historical buildings and artifacts dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, you’ll find an exhibit barn and an entire preserved village.
The interpretive programming will guide you through a blacksmith shop, schoolhouse, slave quarters, general stores, and even an early post office.
LSU Museum of Art
Are you an unapologetic art lover looking for your next gallery to visit? The LSU Museum of Art features a combination of traveling exhibitions and permanent collection showcases that’ll satisfy even the most pretentious art aficionado. The art museum has been open to the public since 1962, but the 6,500-work collection began in 1959 when it was first founded.
Want to add some spice to your LSU Museum of Art visit? Cocktail and painting nights, yoga in the galleries, and drawing workshops are all available for less than $10.
If you have room to play with in your itinerary, it’s worth planning your visit around the discount calendar: Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month, as well as Fridays after 5 pm.
Spanning over 14 acres, the Hilltop Arboretum is hands-down the best place to visit in Baton Rouge, LA, for a leisurely nature walk. After strapping on your hiking shoes, you’ll navigate a trail network through wildflower-spotted meadows, farmland, and groves featuring over 150 native tree species.
Fun fact! The Hilltop Arboretum is home to the most popular spot for wedding ceremonies in the city: The Mr. Emory Wedding Tree. This 8-foot-wide live oak is super picturesque; if there aren’t any events going on during your visit, be sure to snap a family portrait under its leafy canopy.
Old Governor’s Mansion
If you love to imagine yourself living the high life in another time, schedule a tour of the Old Governor’s Mansion. Once the private residence of several Lousiana Governors, the 1930s home is now a public museum where you can explore the architecture and opulent furnishings of the time.
As the mansion was built as a replica of the White House, you can expect to see some extra extravagant decor here. Get ready to be filled with envy as you marvel at the Old Governor’s Mansion’s ballroom, crystal chandeliers, marble staircase, and manicured green lawns.
Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center
Are the members of your travel crew true-bred outdoorsy folk? If so, don’t miss out on the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center. This 101-acre reserve is a great place for young naturalists to learn about Louisiana habitats and for adults to take a hike away from the city streets.
To answer the question you’ve been wondering about: Yep, you can see wild gators at the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center! You should also keep your eye out for other wildlife like snakes, turtles, and the occasional bobcat on the prowl.
Though sightings are never guaranteed, a camera and a keen eye are always recommended.
Shaw Center for the Arts
Whether you’re a fan of plays, comedy, indie films, music, or dancing, the Shaw Center for the Arts is the place to bee This performing arts theater is centrally located on Lafayette Street and is a great starting point for any art lover’s Baton Rouge itinerary.
In addition to the stage at The Manship Theatre, the Shaw Center for the Arts is also home to the LSU Museum of Art and the Glassell Gallery.
Want to turn your visit into a date night? Catch a performance, roam the exhibitions, grab a meal at one of four great restaurants, and then watch the sunset from the River Terrace. What could be more romantic?
Capitol Park Museum
A pillar of the Louisiana State Museum, Capitol Park Museum is one of Baton Rouge’s top attractions, aimed at honoring the history and culture of this Gulf Coast state. Not only is it one of the top-rated museums in the Southeast USA, but it’s also free for all to visit.
Located in the heart of downtown, this modern museum building is an eclectic wonderland of exhibits on the inside. The Capitol Park Museum has a giant shrimp trawler, a submarine from the civil war, Mardi Gras artifacts, a story-based display on the atrocities of the Jim Crowe era, and so much more.
Louisiana State Capitol
At 450 feet tall, the Louisiana State Capitol is the tallest capitol building in the United States. It’s also quite eye-catching, featuring beautiful historic architecture and an Art Deco interior.
Once you arrive at the Louisiana State Capitol, you’ll have a few options. To learn more about the U.S. government and the history of Louisiana, sign up for a guided tour of the senate chambers.
Or, if you’re more interested in some bucket-list-worthy sightseeing, head to the observation deck on the 27th floor. You won’t find a better view of the city skyline anywhere else in Baton Rouge!
Mid City Beer Garden
Want to unwind with a happy hour libation? With over 40 draught beers to choose from, as well as a full wine and cocktail menu, you can’t do better than Mid City Beer Garden!
The perfect accompaniment for a good beer is a great atmosphere—and this restaurant provides just that. With lush greenery, a dog-friendly patio, exposed brick, and modern black furnishings, the Mid City Beer Garden is all about chilled-out vibes.
Looking for a hot spot for Sunday brunch? Rumor on the street is this pub serves one of the tastiest Southern breakfasts around, with a side of cheddar grits and, of course, spiked beverages. (Sounds like the perfect hangover cure, no?)
Parrain’s Seafood Restaurant
For the tastiest fish in Baton Rouge, bring a hearty appetite to Parrain’s Seafood Restaurant. Located in the Mid-City district, this humble diner prides itself on serving the freshest seafood around since 2001.
When you pull up to this cabin restaurant, you’ll have no idea the tasty treats that await you inside. Parrain’s Seafood Restaurant serves up heaping platters of Cajun-style surf and turf staples like crab bisque, hushpuppies, seafood gumbo, and andouille sausage.
Not into the typical sit-down meals? One of the essential things to do in Baton Rouge, LA, is to get a true taste of Louisiana by ordering one of their five famous po’boys!